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Essential Signaling Pathway for Neuronal Connectivity During Brain Development Identified

Published in Brain/Neurology.

Summary: Study reveals a signaling pathway that controls the formation of synapses between pyramidal neurons and inhibitory neurons expressing the parvalbumin protein.

Source: King’s College London

New research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London has demonstrated that brain wiring requires the control of local protein synthesis at the level of specific synapse types.

In new research published in Science, a collaborative study between the Rico and Marín groups reported that the regulation of protein synthesis occurs in a highly specific manner, to the degree of the type of synapse involved.

The authors identified a signaling pathway controlling the formation of synapses between excitatory pyramidal cells and inhibitory interneurons expressing the protein parvalbumin.

This is the first study that demonstrates the presence of such specificity in the regulation of protein synthesis during brain wiring.

The cerebral cortex is the outer layer of the human brain’s largest part, the cerebrum. It is responsible for our most sophisticated and diverse behaviors through its control of motor and sensory functions. It is also one of the most complex biological systems, so understanding the mechanisms that control its development is a major scientific challenge.

There are two main types of neurons in the cerebral cortex: excitatory pyramidal cells and inhibitory interneurons. The interaction between each part is crucial for the normal function of the cerebral cortex. Inhibitory interneurons pace and synchronize the activity of excitatory neurons, thereby orchestrating their behavior.

Neurons in the cerebral cortex organize in networks wired by connections known as synapses. Like an electrical connection, synapses consist of pre- (power plug) and post-synaptic (socket) compartments. In the adult brain, protein synthesis occurs locally in both compartments to carry out the function of the neurons.